Hiking between the two mighty and uncrossable rivers was surprisingly beautiful and wild.
I wasn’t looking forward to this section but was pleasantly surprised by the trail’s beauty and serenity.
DAY 69 – Bealey to Hamilton Hut
I didn’t want to leave Christchurch. My mate, Kris, has such a nice house, I could’ve hung around all day. Tom slept in for hours and I dragged my feet trying to get ready. At last we got in the car and had brekkie at one of my favorite eateries in town, Little Poms. Their cheese scones are the best!
Then it was a long drive back to Arthur’s Pass National Park where Tom dropped me off. He would go on to hike a mountain and meet me farther down the trail in the morrow. And so I was back on the trail at the late hour of 3pm! The trail was very easy, climbing gently through beech forest and then into tussock.
It was a nice vantage point of the Bealey River and I could see where I’d crossed the day before and the Mingha River valley leading back to Goat Pass. Other mountains were snowcapped and I wondered which one Tom would tackle.
After crossing Lagoon Pass which was not noticeable, I descended down to a riverbed and followed the river the rest of the afternoon.
The track was easy and relatively flat. I was in a good mood and it felt like all the difficult parts of the trail were behind me. I only had a few weeks left on the trail and everything was going well. I’d mostly had great weather on the South Island and no major setbacks. Life was good.
Eventually I reached Hamilton Hut where a few weekenders were staying. As I had dinner, more showed up and they stayed up quite late enjoying themselves. It was kind of irritating by 10:30 when they were still talking and playing cards but I suppose I’d get the last laugh when I pack up early in the morning! And when they try to fall asleep to my snoring.
Day’s Distance: 19km (11.8mi)
Total Distance: 2,198km (1,366.1mi)
Distance Remaining: 802km (498.4mi)
DAY 70 – Hamilton Hut to Lake Coleridge
I woke up with the sun. I had slept well and could’ve slept more but I had a big day ahead. So I was quick to get going and was down the trail in short time.
The day was very easy. I followed the river as it widened, crossing it many times. The water was silty so I couldn’t see the bottom but it was never more than ankle deep.
I followed a mostly flat four-wheel drive track along the riverbed. The surrounding mountains were pretty but I don’t think anything could compare to what I’d seen in the Richmond Range and Waiau Pass.
After leaving the riverbed the trail followed a farm road. Things were getting boring. I was on the home stretch with most of the difficult sections of trail behind me. And probably the most beautiful parts too. I was a view snob now.
This happened on the Appalachian Trail, too. After a while you’ve seen so many amazing things it’s hard to appreciate it all. It felt like the end of the adventure was nearing, though I still had three more weeks to go!
The farm track dumped me onto a gravel road which I then followed for several hours. I was quite bored at this point. I did pass Selfe Lake among others. I felt like calling it Selfie Lake.
The wind had picked up and was crazy! It gusted the entire time but usually was at my back. Dust was being blown all about and everything was hazy.
The long road walk eventually took me to Lake Coleridge, a brilliantly blue lake. It was picturesque, even in the haze.
However, the trail took me off the road onto the worst section of track I’ve hiked on. I was pushing through overgrown gorse and prickly bushes and then hiking through marshes and on broken bridges. It was awful and I’d have rather walked the road around this bit.
At last I came to another farm road, though the TA markers were directing me to the field alongside the road. I ignored the markers and walked on the road. It had been a long day and the wind wasn’t helping anymore. They really needed to do some trail maintenance on this section.
Finally I reached the Lake Coleridge power station and hiked down toward the Rakaia River. This enormous river is too wide and deep for the trail to cross so the TA simply ends here and starts again on the other side. It’s kind of like the ocean separating the two islands and trampers are told to organize a hitch around the river (the nearest bridge is a ways south). Luckily Tom was waiting for me in his rental car.
We drove south and crossed the river. In the town of Methven we had dinner at a pub. I had a burger and quinoa bowl. Tom told me of the crazy mountain climbing he had done the night before, misjudging the time and hiking until midnight down a dangerous gorge to get to safety.
After dinner we found a random spot on the side of the road to camp. I’m sure we weren’t supposed to be there but there was nothing around for quite a ways. All in all, a rather dull day, just getting it done.
Day’s Distance: 47.5km (29.5mi)
Total Distance: 2,245.5km (1,395.6mi)
Distance Remaining: 754.5km (468.9mi)
DAY 71 – Rakaia River to Manuka Hut
It was starting to sprinkle in the morning but soon stopped. I quickly packed up my tent. Tom had slept in the car and we were off to the town of Methven for breakfast. We ate pancakes at this quaint little cafe that was decorated like Grandma’s house.
From there we had a long drive up the other side of the Rakaia River. The river was wide and braided. The water levels were low enough to have made a crossing possible but overall, it looked like a challenging river that would be dangerous to cross with any rain.
Speaking of rain, it was sprinkling the entire drive up the river. When we reached the trailhead for the TA, I didn’t want to leave the car. Tom had decided against hiking any of this section with me and was ready to head back to civilization. We were in the middle of nowhere farm country.
Reluctantly I set off in the light rain. The terrain was very easy following a farm track up to a high point.
It was a gradual grade and I made good time. The rain seemed to let up and the day might turn around yet. As I crested the saddle the skies seemed to be clearing up and the mountains were beautiful.
The trail continued for a while up high in the grasses and tussock. The views were incredible. The sun was out and I had to apply sunscreen.
The day had really turned around. When I started hiking I just wanted to get it done but now I was enjoying myself.
The trail descended down into a valley eventually where it followed a river. The river soon led to a hut where I had lunch and talked with some TA hikers that were staying the night there. It was only 1pm but they wanted to relax and have an easy day. I wish I knew how to do that!
Fellow hiker, John, showed up. I hadn’t seen him since the 42 Traverse section on the North Island! We ended up hiking together the rest of the day.
From the hut the track took us upstream along the watercourse. We had to cross the stream countless times as it wound through the countryside. It was refreshing in the hot sun.
We zigzagged up the stream for nearly two hours before we finally deviated up the Clent Hills Saddle. It wasn’t that difficult a climb but once again the views were spot on.
From the saddle there was a nice traverse across a scree slope. More great views!
Then the trail descended into bush. It was a choose-your-own-adventure as we picked through tussock. So much of it was prickly, it was very frustrating. The spear grass was cutting our legs up.
Remember how I said I just wanted to get it done but then changed my mind? At this point, I’d changed my mind again. I was over this section of trail. I do not like bush bashing through prickers!
At last we left the bushes and followed a desert-like valley. It was mostly rock and scrub as we walked along a four-wheel drive road. The sun was beating down hard.
We were down from the mountain and on a large flat section. The Southern Alps could be seen way off in the distance. It was rather beautiful though I was getting tired and hungry.
Finally we reached Manuka Hut. Unfortunately the six-person hut was at capacity. I pitched my tent nearby and John opted for the hut floor. We had a good time eating dinner and talking with the other hikers. A good day, overall.
Day’s Distance: 37.5km (23.3mi)
Total Distance: 2,283km (1,418.9mi)
Distance Remaining: 717km (445.6mi)
DAY 72 – Manuka Hut to Rangitata River
The morning was foggy and it looked as if it might rain. John and I set off together in the cool air but it quickly warmed.
The terrain was very easy as we hiked through the tussock. There was a small saddle to climb over but it wasn’t difficult.
From there we walked along a dirt road for quite a ways. It was rather boring until we reached a nice lake.
We sat and had lunch by the lake. The skies were clear and the day was turning out nicely.
John eventually hiked on ahead of me; he can be very fast. As I crested the final hill before descending to a valley, I could see the Southern Alps on the horizon. They were beautiful off in the distance.
It was a quick descent down into a grassy valley. Lake Clearwater was off to one side and the Rangitata River far off toward the mountains.
Walking through the grassy valley was pretty easy and boring. It was monotonous but the mountains in the distance were a nice sight.
Near the Rangitata River, the trail descended down next to the Potts River. After an easy crossing, I followed the river right up to the mighty Rangitata River.
Just like the Rakaia River, the Rangitata River is so big and wide it cannot be crossed by hikers. Sure enough, Tom was waiting there with his rental car to pick me up. We also gave John a ride.
And so we headed into the town of Geraldine, quite a ways away. It began to rain so we booked cheap rooms at a pub in town that had backpacker accommodation. It felt so nice to lay down in bed and do nothing all afternoon. We had kebabs for lunch and Indian food for dinner. I was so happy to have a shower and a bed! In the morning Tom would drive us to the other side of the Rangitata where the trail started up again.
Day’s Distance: 32km (19.9mi)
Total Distance: 2,315km (1,438.8mi)
Distance Remaining: 685km (425.7mi)
For anyone that’s had too many drinks, this Meghan Trainor song is a good excuse.
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